The Flash S02E03 “Family Of Rogues” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Julian Meiojas & Katherine Walczak
Director: John F Showalter
Essential Plot Points:
- Lisa and Leonard Snart’s abusive dad Lewis (it’s an “L” of a family) places a bomb in Lisa’s head to force his son to use his Captain Cold powers to help him with his criminal plans.
- Lisa turns to Team Flash for help, so Barry goes undercover as a criminal geek to stay close to the male Snarts while Cisco tries to prise Caitlin away from Jay Garrick long enough so that they can find a way to get the bomb out of Lisa’s head.
- Team Flash triumphs. Leonard kills his dad then goes to prison. Barry has a sneaking admiration for him. Joe thinks Barry is barmy (Joe clearly hasn’t heard about the upcoming spin-off).
- Iris is now Lois Lane Mark II: action reporter with a superhero on speed dial.
- Iris’s mum isn’t dead! She’s back in town and so Joe comes clean to his daughter – he lied about her mum’s death because he was ashamed to tell Iris that her druggie mum had run out on them. Iris seems remarkable okay with this. We like Iris. Not being okay would have been tediously predictable.
- Jay Garrick creates the speed cannon allowing travel between different realities, and strangely a queue doesn’t form to test it out.
- But (a) Harrison Wells does use the cannon to slip into our world when nobody’s looking.
- Professor Stein goes all Firestormy… except with blue flame.
The frantic multi-world arc plot takes a little bit of a back seat this week as the show delivers parallel plots about parent/child relationships. This could have been a cue for an overdose of sentimentality, but actually while the episode is less earth-shattering in scope than the past couple of weeks, it’s still fast-paced, funny, action-packed and all kinds of entertaining.
It helps that Captain Cold and the Golden Glider are the villains of the week. Not that they’re the real villains; that dubious honour goes to their odious dad, played with such casual contempt by the legendary Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) he merely needs to flare his nostrils to make you loathe him. After two weeks of bland, tritely-written villains it’s refreshing to have a set of baddies who actually possess things like personalities, motivation and depth. Admittedly Wentworth Miller’s performance is becoming more and more mannered with each appearance. He’s at the point now where he’s not so much phoning in his performance as texting it in (with emoticons). But there are lovely little nuances every now and then that prove there’s more going on under his facade; especially in the final prison scene, but also even in simple little moments such as when he thanks Barry for his meal as he walks off without paying.
There’s little groundbreaking here. Lisa’s tales of abuse as a child are so much grist to the mill in US TV drama, less of a real-life issue to be explored, than a handy way to define characters. But as ever with this show, it manages expose a nerve of raw emotion without becoming mawkish, dealing in simple, broad strokes that make you sympathise for Lisa and Leonard without feeling you’re being emotionally manipulated. It’s hardly going to win anybody any Emmys for hard-hitting drama but in its own way, it’s very clever, intelligent scripting that lets The Flash deal with emotional storylines in a highly stylised, comic book setting.
Similarly, the plot about Iris’s mum looked worryingly like it was going to a schmaltz-fest, but the show avoids that too. Good grief, Iris actually understands why her dad did what he did and forgives him. Have the writers not read The Big Book Of America Drama Scripting? All the rules dictate that Iris should spend at least three episodes sulking and not talking to him. To be honest, Iris’s reaction is just a teensy bit too good to be true but honestly, if it avoids all the usual clichés , we can live with it. Happily.
Other than that, Jay continues to be oddly dull. His second full episode and he spends all the time in the basement tinkering? Boy, he knows how to have fun. Cisco, however, is having a lot of fun, willingly letting Lisa flirt with him (well, why not) and doing a great impression of Stein. He seems to have forgotten he’s supposed to be scared about his developing powers… that would have been useful at various points this week, but never mind.
It’s also great to see Barry smiling again after two weeks of self-flagellation. From the brilliant teaser with Iris throwing herself out a window to be rescued, to his prison chat with Snart, through his brief career as a high-tech crim, this is the old, optimistic, life-embracing Barry again. Welcome back.
- Cisco’s impersonation of Stein is as hilarious as it is accurate.
- Iris doesn’t go into a strop about Joe lying about her mum, which is a very pleasant surprise.
- Great dialogue from Joe and Francine: “You thought you could pay me to walk away from my ow daughter?” “Last time you walked away for free.”
- Lisa’s tales of her abusive father (“that’s when I learnt a bottle hurts more than a fist”) are moving in their restraint.
- At least we don’t get another week with a Zoom henchman trying to kill Barry. Zoom is clearly reconsidering his approach.
- Barry is very amusing as a pretend criminal techy geek.
- The action finale is brilliantly tense – even though you know Cisco will extract the bomb just in time it’s still edge-of-seat stuff.
- Although it’s obviously just setting the pieces in place for the Legends Of Tomorrow spin-off, the final Barry/Snart scene in Iron Heights is a lot of fun.
- The speed cannon is impressive, and the director loves his “through the blobby breach” shots.
- What’s the point in writing in a concept – exploding heads – that you know the censors will never let you show? Was is just supposed to make those in know smirk because guest star Michael Ironside was in Scanners (1981)?
- Leonard Snart doesn’t have any decent “cold” puns (though he does say to Barry, “Live fast, die young” so we may forgive him).
- Mick Rory/Heatwave is a little too conspicuous by his absence.
- Erm, how does Captain Cold freeze lasers, exactly?
- We don’t get nearly enough of Barry going undercover as a criminal.
And The Random:
- We’re thinking all this emphasis on “blue” energy may be misdirection. We’ve seen that Zoom trails blue lightning when he runs but it would be too obvious to have Wells as the villain yet again, surely? As for Stein, in the comics Ronnie Raymond retirned from the dead in 2010 “Blackest Night” crossover event as a character called Deathstorm… who had black/blue flames. Could this be a reference to that?
- Hang on – Linda Park’s back? We weren’t expecting that, though we’re not complaining. She’s great. Linda’s also Wally West’s “love interest” in the comics, and guess who’s going to be making his debut on the show pretty soon? Has the show been playing the long game with Linda?
- Danville, Ohio is the hometown of DC character Lisa Jennings, a kind of ersatz Superwoman (a small-town schoolteachers who inherits Kryptonian powers and becomes part of the Superman Squad) who was introduced in Superman #703 (2010).
- Nice paint job on the bike there, Ms Golden Glider.
- Stein uses Marvel mastermind Stan Lee’s catchphrase – “Excelsior” – for the second time on the show (the first use was in the first season finale, “Fast Enough”). Has the man no sense of loyalty?
- Leonard gets uppity when his dad calls his superweapon a “freeze gun”, presumably becomes he’s been been getting cease and desist letter from Mr Freeze’s lawyers.
Review by Dave Golder